Back in 2000, John McCain described the two major tasks of a vice-president: Every day, he has to check on the president’s health, and he must make himself available to preside over ceremonies. Not too appealing. A former vice-president who served with FDR, John Nance Garner, said the job of vice-president is not worth more “than a bucket of spit.” Not too important, we can assume. Clearly, very few people yearn for the office of the vice-president. However, being vice-president in this day and age is much different than what McCain and Garner described. From Walter Mondale (1977 – 1980) to Dick Cheney (2001 – 2009) the power of the vice-presidency has increased significantly. One third of vice-presidents have gone on to become president. This is not an insignificant statistic. So the choices of Joe Biden and Sarah Palin clearly merits all the attention it has gotten.
The choice of Biden added what was missing in the Obama candidacy: foreign relations experience. It is obvious that, in a time of crisis, Obama’s vision and intelligence combined with Biden’s knowledge and experience would come across as very reassuring. As I said in an earlier post, Biden brought gravitas to the Obama ticket, while the choice of Palin—a far more controversial one—has transformed the current race into one about change and the kind of change America needs and wants. She adds a sense of newness that was sorely missing from McCain’s lacklustre campaign. The jury, however, is still out on Palin because, outside of her glamour and her ability to deliver a speech, we know very little about her, except what comes to us through anecdotal evidence.
This election is as close as it gets. And, until the debate season begins on September 26, it is likely to remain that way—with many undecided voters, and soft support from a significant portion of those who have made up their minds. The Obama–Biden ticket represents a definite shift in policy and direction for the United States. Though the McCain–Palin ticket is an attempt to deflect attention from the record of the Bush–Cheney administration, when we look closely at what their campaign is proposing, we see very little difference in how the economy will be handled, how health care will be delivered to over 45 million uninsured Americans, how America will handle the existing wars and future diplomacy. If America’s happy with the course of the last 8 years, then the choice is obvious: McCain-Palin.
But over 80% of Americans are not happy with the course their country has taken in the past 8 years. They want change and they want more than cosmetic change. The hubub over vice-presidential picks over the past three weeks has been a side show. The real choice comes down to who America believes should be the next president, Obama or McCain. The Obama campaign must not lose sight of this, because picking the next president is far more important than knowing a “hockey mom” wears lipstick!